CONCACAF World Cup 2026 Winners and Losers

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The official news that everyone already knew was coming was finally announced today in Lower Manhattan as the presidents of the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican Soccer Federations announced a joint bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2026. This will be the first World Cup to ever involve 48 nations, making it the largest edition of the tournament yet, and will provide one of a few reasons why three of the largest countries in the world chose to host a World Cup jointly rather than compete with each other for the rights.

Some interesting notes about the bid are that the USA will host 60 of the 80 matches, while Canada and Mexico will host 10 each, and none after the quarterfinal round. In addition, a successful bid would grant Mexico the title of being the first nation to ever host the World Cup three times. On top of that, this would be Canada’s first appearance in a World Cup since 1986, the only time they ever qualified.

The implications of hosting a World Cup in North America would be huge as evidenced by the last World Cup held in the U.S. in 1994 as well as the recent Copa America Centennario held in the U.S. in 2016. In both cases, it was the most well attended and profitable edition of the respective tournament. While many have been left scratching their heads as to why the U.S. chose this route compared to hosting alone, one doesn’t have to travel too far for answers.

The most obvious reason why the U.S. went the safe route for this bid was its role in the still fresh exposure of FIFA’s corruption scandal. You don’t have to be in elementary school to know that a tattle tale would not receive unbiased treatment from the party that was ratted out. By packaging its bid with Canada and Mexico, FIFA will have a tougher time finding excuses to award the hosting rights somewhere else, arguably as it did when granting the rights to Qatar in 2022.

A less obvious reason is that sharing the hosting rights also means sharing the costs. While the United States may be the most qualified country to host a 48 nation tournament in terms of infrastructure already in place, the cost will only grow higher by the time it is actually 2026.

The biggest winner here appears to be Canada just for the simple reason that this bid would allow Canada to qualify for the world’s biggest stage for possibly the first time in 30 years depending on how 2022 works out. In addition, the game has already drawn respectable crowds to MLS matches with the rise of Toronto FC, the Montreal Impact, and Vancouver Whitecaps, and the 10 games hosted in 2026 may be just the right amount to boost that buzz for Canadian soccer to the next level.

In a country as ravenous for soccer as Mexico, ten games may seem like a loss on paper, but going head to head for a World Cup in 2026, there is good reason to believe that the United States would have surpassed a solo bid based simply on security and stadium readiness, even if it was beaten out by a competitor in another continent. In this case the old adage of “if you can’t beat them, join them,” rings true. However, out of the ten matches that will be played in Mexico, it is a bit surprising to see that none of them will be at least a semifinal match, especially considering the history and size of Stadio Azteca in Mexico City.

Finally, that leaves us with the United States. All things considered, hosting 60 matches, all the semifinal games as well as the final should be considered a victory for a nation eager to prove its rise in the sport. Time will tell if the results say otherwise.

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REFERENCES

http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/39544868

http://www.ussoccer.com/stories/2017/04/10/17/52/20170410-news-us-soccer-canada-mexico-submit-unified-bid-host-2026-fifa-world-cup

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The U.S.A. Could (And Should) Host Another World Cup

chile-copa_2706getty_875Last night the Copa America Centenario came to a close with Chile defeating Argentina in a penalty shootout after a 0-0 draw. This was almost an exact replica of Copa America 2015 when Chile defeated Argentina in a penalty shootout after a 0-0 draw.  The difference? The United States does it bigger, and does it better.

The predominately Argentine attendance last night in East Rutherford, New Jersey was reportedly over 82,000, a New Jersey soccer record. This comes on the heels of last week’s impressive crowd at the USA vs. Argentina semifinal in Houston, Texas that was reportedly over 70,000, a Houston soccer record.  For a country that has played host in the past to Pele, Ronaldinho, and David Beckham, there are many reasons for tournament organizers to be pleased right now.

The amount of records broken by this edition of Copa America cannot be ignored.  After last night’s final, the accumulated attendance of the 32 games played was just over 1.5 million, shattering a record held for over 25 years by over 350,000. In addition, the average attendance was nearly 46,000 fans per game, topping 5 of the last 9 World Cups (excluding the USA hosted World Cup in 1994).  Average attendance even topped the past 6 European championships despite an average ticket price of just over $100.  Using just attendance alone as a measuring stick, the U.S. has raised the bar as a host.

In terms of TV ratings, even more records were broken.  Not including the final, the first 30 matches of the Copa America Centenario drew over 100 million viewers in the U.S. from the combined broadcasts of Univision and Fox networks.  Univision reported that ratings for the tournament have been higher than average ratings for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  The USA vs. Argentina semifinal even drew 3.29 million viewers on Fox Sports 1, a network soccer record.  In terms of reach, the tournament has been broadcast in 160 countries, and 1.5 billion viewers worldwide. While the days until MLS reaches 1.5 billion viewers are still a long way off, competitive international soccer in the US has consistently proven to be record draw since the ’90s.

In short, the Copa America Centenario achieved every feat it intended and then some.  As Sunil Gulati accurately concluded, the United States Soccer Federation successfully proved that this country has the infrastructure, management system, and consumer base to thrive as an international soccer tournament host.  In many ways, the United States has everything that Brazil is missing for the Rio Olympics in less than two months.  Even with all the bribery and scandals that surround FIFA, it would be incredibly hard to avoid the potential money-making machine that the United States just displayed for a memorable, drama-filled, and lucrative three weeks.

REFERENCES

http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/24/copa-america-has-been-successful-with-attendance-tv-ratings/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/sergeiklebnikov/2016/06/26/successful-copa-america-2016-smashes-records/#44766b89734b

http://www.latimes.com/sports/soccer/la-sp-copa-us-argentina-tv-ratings-20160622-snap-story.html

http://www.news18.com/footballnext/news/lionel-messi-misses-penalty-as-chile-win-copa-america-2016-title-1262520.html

What Does This Mean for Women’s Soccer in America?

uswnt1We won! The USA is #1 in women’s soccer for the first time in 16 years. And what a way to do it. The first 20 minutes of the game with an incredible hat trick from superstar midfielder Carli Lloyd was not only a magical moment for soccer fans, but also great television and great advertising for first-time soccer viewers. Monday morning conversations at offices across America were littered with “Wambach, 5-2, and 1999.” But in the end, what does this do for soccer in America?

Quite a bit actually. We saw a renewed excitement not just by girls but by boys who couldn’t care less if it was men or women playing. We saw new heroes, record TV numbers, and rising stars.  According to NPR, the United States/Japan final at its peak was viewed by 22.86 million viewers, the most watched soccer game in U.S television history, eclipsing the 2011 final by almost 15 million viewers.

Fox garnered approximately $17 million in ad revenue from the one match, and according to the Washington Post, the ratings for the U.S. women’s games averaged higher than both the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals. Univision even broke records with 1.27 million viewers of the Spanish language broadcast, making it the most watched women’s soccer game in the network’s history.

While these are tremendous feats, and huge steps for not just women’s soccer, but soccer as a whole in America, there are still important issues that need to be addressed when it comes to women’s sports.  According to multiple sources, including ESPN’s Randy Scott, the total winnings won by the World Champion U.S. Women’s Soccer team was $2,000,0000.  In comparison, the German team that won the men’s version of the FIFA World Cup last summer shared $35,000,000.  Some teams that lost in the first round earned $8,000,000.

The United States is currently the gold standard for women’s soccer. According to World Soccer Talk, while women’s soccer players in the National Women’s Soccer League can’t expect to make enough money to live on that salary alone, the talented athletes selected to represent the country can expect to realistically get by. Few stars like Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach can even expect to earn six to seven figures after sponsorships are taken into account.  If there is one thing we learned from this World Cup, it’s that progress has been made.  But there is still a long journey ahead before equality is reached.
REFERENCES
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/07/06/420514899/what-people-are-saying-about-the-u-s-women-s-world-cup-win

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/07/06/the-sad-gender-economics-of-the-womens-world-cup/

USA-Japan Women’s World Cup Final smashes record for most watched soccer game in US history

The Women’s World Cup: Where is the Buzz?

img_6177_original-croppedThe 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off in Canada in less than 2 weeks.  Are you excited? If the answer is no, you probably fall in the majority of sports fans. But the marketing push leaves a lot to be desired. Women’s professional soccer has historically been a tough sell since the memorable U.S. Women’s National Team World Cup victory in 1999, and 2015 is no exception.

During last year’s FIFA Men’s World Cup, Nike and Adidas aggressively fought each other over ad space and staged media events to draw attention to new soccer jerseys and products.  It is very unlikely to expect this level of competition during this year’s event due to the lack of interest building around the competition.  Possibly the most publicity surrounding the tournament came from the controversial choice of colors to be worn by the U.S. Women’s National Team.  For the first time, the team will not be wearing a uniform that resembles the American flag.  Instead, the team will don white uniforms with hints of black, as well as neon green socks and cleats.  The topic was trending nationally for hours.

Fox Sports, the broadcast rights owner of this event has attempted to hype the games through a 100 day, $10 million dollar promotional push.  You can see the video that starts this push below.  The goal of the campaign is to convince viewers that the U.S. Men’s National Team has “passed the torch” to the U.S. Women’s National Team after their disappointing World Cup defeat to Belgium last year because “The U.S. has a score to settle.”

While a 6 venue tournament in Canada will almost definitely have a different feel on television to the surreal scenes we saw in Brazil during the Men’s World Cup, FOX Sports still sees the potential for great success.  5 out of the 16 matches to be aired on FOX will be aired during primetime, including the two group stage matches of the U.S. team.  29 games will be shown on FOX Sports 1.  Time will tell if viewers care about the tournament, and if the tournament can impact the success of the U.S. professional women’s league as expected.

According to SB Nation, the average attendance in 2014 for the National Women’s Soccer League (America’s top-tier women’s league) was 4,139.  If you subtract the exception to the rule, the Portland Thorns who average 13,362 fans per game, attendance decreases drastically to 2,986.  In fairness, the Seattle Sounders of MLS also help boost average attendance figures by acting as a clear outlier to the rest of the league.

Perhaps even worse news is that professional women’s soccer leagues in the United States have a history of folding after 3 years, first with the WUSA in 2003, followed by the WPS in 2011.  This year marks the fateful third year of operations for the NWSL.  As a result, success in this World Cup by the women’s team could be crucial for the existence of the league.  Star power from household names like Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach combined with a U.S. Women’s World Cup victory will need to equate to consistent attendance figures in NWSL games,  or the league might face the same repetitively grim fate of its predecessors.

REFERENCES

http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/fox-sports-gets-world-cup-fans-revved-round-2-163077

http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2015/04/womens_world_cup_should_have_i.html

http://www.si.com/planet-futbol/2015/04/22/us-soccer-home-jersey-white-uniform-usmnt-uswnt-kit

http://www.ussoccer.com/stories/2015/05/20/09/54/150520-wnt-fox-wwc-tv-sched-rel

http://www.dynamotheory.com/2015/4/13/8392073/nwsl-looks-to-break-attendance-trend-set-by-failed-leagues-wusa-wps

Nike is releasing its US women’s soccer jerseys in men’s sizes for the first time ever